NINDS Rigor Champions Prize

June 5, 2023

Recognizing individuals and small teams who are enhancing rigor and transparency.

The Office of Research Quality at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is announcing the “NINDS Rigor Champions Prize”. This Challenge will recognize individuals or small teams who have promoted or enhanced research rigor and transparency practices above and beyond their typical job duties (e.g., beyond the expected rigor and transparency practices applied to one’s own research projects) and have contributed to changing the culture of science on a local (e.g., laboratory, departmental) or broader (e.g., institution-wide, national, field-wide) level to enhance awareness or practice of research rigor and transparency. NINDS considers such individuals to be “rigor champions”. Widely applicable rigor and transparency practices submitted to this Challenge should be applicable to neuroscience research relevant to the NINDS mission.

Rigorous research practices and transparent reporting are integral to the scientific process and help ensure high-quality and robust research findings. For the purpose of this Challenge, rigor and transparency practices are defined as efforts to improve the design, execution, analysis, and reporting of experiments to minimize the risk of bias and/or chance observations, especially for confirmatory or hypothesis-testing experiments (see NINDS applicant guidelines for specific example practices). However, these practices are not always aligned with the typical metrics and incentives used for publishing, hiring, and tenure and promotion. Individual (or small teams of) rigor champions have the power to change behaviors, attitudes, and policies in their local networks, but this work often goes unrecognized or unrewarded. NINDS is dedicated to improving research rigor and transparency in the neurosciences (see the NINDS strategic plan section on rigor and transparency) by identifying and recognizing rigor champions working to improve the scientific enterprise.

The goals of this prize are to:
1) identify individuals or small teams (up to 5 individuals) of rigor champions who are exemplars of promoting enhanced research rigor and transparency practices beyond their normal job duties that are relevant to the neuroscience community and the biomedical community at-large;
2) recognize and reward these rigor champions for these efforts; and
3) raise awareness of these efforts more broadly.

This Challenge seeks creative and effective approaches to changing research culture around rigorous and transparent research practices that have been tested or employed by the Participant(s). These approaches can be on a small scale or a much larger one, and they can be driven by an individual or a small team. Promoting rigorous research practices and transparent reporting involves many members of the scientific community, so we encourage submissions from all rigor champions, including trainees and other early-career researchers, administrators, librarians, staff scientists, faculty, and other integral members of the scientific community from diverse disciplines and types of organizations. Critical to this Challenge is evidence of changing the culture around rigorous research practices relevant to neuroscience and not simply employing rigorous research practices.

Examples of activities that would be responsive to this Challenge include, but are not limited to:
·      Journal clubs or a seminar series focused on discussing and highlighting the principles of rigorous research and transparent reporting to raise awareness in the local scientific community (e.g., a Neuroscience Department, a Ph.D. training program)
·      Creation of new educational materials or services focused on enhancing training in the principles of rigorous research practices and transparent reporting
·      Implementation of a new quality management system or infrastructure for ensuring research quality in a single lab that then spreads to other labs
·      Campaigns to change policy or procedure to improve career incentive structures (e.g., research quality assessment during hiring, promotion/tenure, or student graduation requirements)
·      Creative awards to recognize and value individuals who publish null results, champion rigor and transparency practices, or do important replication or quality control work
·      Additional activities found in this publication; eLife, 2020

Activities that would not be responsive to this Challenge:
·      Activities with a focus outside of the scope of rigor and transparency practices (e.g., specific scientific techniques, personnel practices, or policies not being modified to increase or incentivize higher research quality)
·      Activities with a focus on researcher integrity (e.g., ethics, misconduct) rather than processes dedicated to enhancing research quality via enhanced rigor and transparency
·      Activities already required by NIH policies or funding stipulations (e.g., training in Responsible Conduct of Research, fulfillment of T32 award requirements)

Submissions will include short essays describing activities performed to improve culture and practice related to scientific rigor and transparency and evidence of their implementation and success. Documents must be provided in PDF format. The Participant Registration and Consent Form must be completed and included for all Participants or Team members participating. Participating teams should designate an eligible Team Lead. The Participant Registration and Consent form can be downloaded from the Resources tab (See How to Enter for details). To receive a cash prize, the Participant or Team Lead (if submitting on behalf of a Team) providing the Submission must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

NINDS upholds that diverse teams working together and capitalizing on innovative ideas and distinct perspectives outperform homogeneous teams. In line with this commitment, this Challenge encourages Submissions from all rigor champions, particularly those who are underrepresented in racial and ethnic groups and/or those with disabilities and disadvantaged backgrounds (for more information see NOT-OD-20-031).

Statutory Authority to Conduct the Challenge
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is conducting this Challenge under the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010, as amended [15 U.S.C. § 3719].
The mission of the NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. This Challenge will advance this mission by helping to recognize efforts that promote rigorous and transparent research practices in neuroscience, ensuring the production of high-quality neuroscience research.

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